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Medical Practice Business And Marketing Articles

Article #33 -- May 2012

"How To Create A Referral Marketing Program
That Floods Your Practice With Patients"

When you over-deliver in response to a doctor referred patient,
you are also promoting that doctor’s practice as well
as a continuous referral source for your own practice.

     To do that, requires conscientious and intentional interactions with the referring medical doctor or appropriate person.

     A reasonable volume and flow of communications with the referral doctor is the most effectual means of insuring future referrals from that doctor or office staff.

     It's a common professional courtesy and ethical behavior to instantly answer any phone calls from doctors no matter what activity you are involved with at the time, with few exceptions (like being in the middle of a special surgical procedure).

     When doctors take the time to call you themselves, you should either take the call right then of have an understandable excuse not to. Your office staff member can explain the situation to the doctor on the phone and arrange a time for you to call them back within a very short time (within 30 minutes, preferably).

     This demonstrates your top priority in your office to respect another doctor's time, especially when it involves referring you a patient. Being quick to answer such a call creates a desirable reputation in the peer community of being quick and willing to comply. This should be your habit pattern for any physician call for any reason.

     Usually, the referral process is handled between the two office’s staff members by phone without the involvement of the doctors. When a doctor is involved, the referral is often an urgency or emergency and should be handled the same day, or within 24 hours at most--maybe even in the next 30 minutes.

     By enabling the referring doctor to get her patient to the right doctor promptly, let’s her patient know that she is prepared for such an urgency.

     Patients quickly recognize that their doctor cares about their medical problem, understands the importance of prompt help being available and which doctor is most congenial and accommodating in the medical community whether the situation is urgent or not.

     You need to be the one doctor in the community that is not only the most accommodating, but also the one who has just made the referral doctor look good in her patients eyes. Do you think that referral doctor will reciprocate in the future?  You better believe it. (Strategy: reciprocity) 

     There are many more strategies all doctors’ use at one time or another to boost their referral marketing efforts. Most all of them can be found associated with the attractive traits found in the best physicians you will want to refer your patients to yourself, such as...

Some attractive traits that referral doctors find impressive in other doctors that they prefer to refer their patients most often to, are...

  • Your prompt availability (when referred for a medical problem,
    patients want to be seen right away out of fear)

  • Your skills at managing their patient’s medical problems, if
    asked to do so

  • Your clear advice and appropriate options for your findings
    and treatments presented to the patient

  • Your intentional effort to refer the patient back to their own
    doctor for further care, even if not necessary

  • Your reports on patient findings and treatment promptly
    sent or called back to the referring doctor

  • Your ability to express (with the least fearful words and
    medical terms) the seriousness of the medical problem
    to the patient in a manner that is factual, understandable,
    and without frightening the patient beyond hope

  • Your expertise at being able to satisfy the patient at to the
    need for the referral, without any response that might
    reflect badly on the referring doctor’s ignorance or skills

  • Your ability to present your findings to the patient while
    maintaining an attitude of a potential for a successful
    outcome, regardless of the true severity of the
    medical problem

  • Your personal integrity about maintaining a patient’s medical
    privacy and the referral doctor’s blunders

  • Your trait of never saying anything derogatory about any
    other medical professional, even in a humorous fashion

How to manage your interactions with the referring doctor that work to your advantage...

The minimal array of communications sent doctor to doctor should include at least the following...

1.  Responsibility for treatment and follow-up visits and management. Most referral doctors make it clear at the time of the request for their patient to be seen who is to do which part of the treatment and follow-up… them or you… or even to keep the patient forever (ex. A dermatologist refers a pregnant patient to an OBG doctor)

2.  Same day phone call back to the referral doctor about your findings, thoughts, advice, treatment options

3.  Written communication reviewing the details of your findings, thoughts, and treatment options… within 24
hours of consult

4.  If you are to treat and follow the referred patient for that medical problem, then a follow-up written report and phone call back to the referring doctor about the recovery and outcome is important.

5.  If the patient was referred only for a diagnostic and advice consultation, then all treatment will be done by the referring doctor.

In this case a written report of your findings, advice, and treatment options should be sent to the referral doctor to use as part of his or her education in case they are not fully informed of the most recent and upcoming new treatment options available.

At the same time, it is also wise to make it clear in the message that you would be happy to help them further at anytime with this patient, or even take over the care of the referred patient should her own doctor run into problems with the patients treatment… leave all
options open.

Additional communications can be the elements that set you apart from, and above, what other doctors don’t or won’t do. Remember that marketing your practice is the foundation for continuing stability of your income and referrals.

The marketing strategy here is...

Do what other doctors are not doing!

     It positions you above your competition for referrals, as well as other practice interactions in the future. By going the extra mile in this situation, it impacts those who see or know what you are willing to do to deserve referrals. Your reputation is polished. Your integrity is intensified.

     Your self-esteem rises because you know you are doing a better job at what you do than most others and it shows and your peers see it. 

Consider committing yourself to some additional highly profitable referral marketing strategies that seal your dominance as the doctor to send patients to in your local medical community.

1.  A well timed and constructed “THANK YOU” for the referral process

    No matter how seemingly unnecessary, simple, faked, late, or ridiculous this may seem, “thank you’s” are the ultimate fuel that drives the referral engine.

Human behavior has long been shown to respond dramatically to the process of “recognition”… just ask your spouse about that. A personal verbal thank-you may be enough if it’s expressed doctor to doctor for each referred patient, not just now and then when you happen to think about it. It should never be taken for granted.

Some medical professionals prefer to add a gift item as a means of saying “thank you.” Many doctors prefer to use holiday gifts as a means to thank another doctor.

This effort is effective as long as there’s a handwritten note included explaining what you are thanking the doctor for (be very specific as to any patient name, date, and reasons).

Doctors, like all of us, forget things they do for others over time, especially when they aren’t compensated for the effort. Consequently, if a thank you is delayed, the reason for it may not be obvious and the effectiveness of it has dissipated.

Whenever someone does you a favor, it’s important that the thank you is delivered promptly to the person for obtaining the full effect of gratitude. Practice busyness or forgetfulness is never an acceptable excuse for delay or avoiding the issue.

2. Rewarding the office staff of a referral doctor, is something most doctors disregard

To be truthful, you may not be aware of how a referral patient gets to you. Some doctors leave it all up to their office manager or specific person to do all of his or her non-urgent referrals.

That office staff member may actually be the one who decides which doctor to refer to, all based on their personal dealings with other doctor offices and perceptions of their competence and efficiency… and whether they ever receive a thank you from
that office.

Because most medical offices are very busy, lunch times are often messed up or disappear, leaving a great option for the “fruit of the month” kind of gift that they can snack on anytime during work hours.

Not only is such a gift a monthly reminder to that referral office, like a repeated thank-you being said, about who sent it, but also is an investment you make to profit from many more referred patients. It’s a thoughtful gift. 

3. Holiday greeting cards sent to referral doctor’s offices...

...are a repetitive means of reminding them in a subtle manner of your availability for referrals. Keeping others in your focus of attention in this manner is a very clever and subtle way of nudging them into their behavior pattern of reciprocity.

When your neighbor invites you over to their home for an evening, doesn’t it create a strong feeling about paying them back in some way for such an interesting evening?

This effort of sending out holiday greetings is greatly enhanced by adding a personal handwritten message on the card. This process creates exactly the same behavior pattern and response in your patients that you send birthday cards to once a year.

A clever “one-upsmanship” tactic to keep you fresh in your patient’s minds (who also refer you patients) is to send your patient’s “half-year” birthday cards in between the annual and usual one.

Do the same for the doctors who refer you patients. Actually, it’s a perfect time to send a humorous card that is remembered far longer than the cheesy usual greeting cards. 

One of the magnetic properties of this type of marketing (direct mail) is that it often incites a response in the recipient that would not have happened otherwise.

It may also result in retaining a patient who was drifting off towards another doctor at the time, or a referral doctor who was thinking about sending a patient to another doctor instead of you. The actual cost to you for doing this is minimized by the amount of profit you will make from the process.

There’s a profitable marketing secret in this that’s seldom recognized. The marketing fact that it costs 6 to 10 times more money to recruit a new patient than to retain an old patient, makes it a lot less expensive to work at retaining your present patients than trying to recruit new patients.

This is even more valuable when one is focusing on retaining a referral doctor who keeps on sending you patient referrals and in essence costs you nothing to obtain in the exchange.

The non-monetary cost you face is your time nurturing the referral resource. It’s the same benefit retail businesses seek who market to their list of previous buyers. 

Comment about marketing your medical practice to the best doctor referral sources  

Depending on your thoughts about the kind of medical patients you prefer to have in your practice, your marketing efforts should be directed to those referral sources.

The most profitable resources for patient referrals are the doctors in your local city medical community within a 7 to 10 mile radius. Some doctors prefer to deal in volume of patient referrals and some in quality of the patients referred to them.   

You are quite aware that you are able to see and treat only a limited number of patients per day, per week, per month. The level of income produced in your practice from that limited number of patients is dependent on many aspects of your practice business.  

Seeing referred patients that are in a low income healthcare category, rarely become loyal patients, and often encompass much more of your attention medically. A practice predominantly composed of these patients usually results in a less than adequate practice income.  

If you deal in volume of referred patients, then you are forced to hire more staff who do most of the medical advice, minor treatments, and handle the majority of medical patients that are seen.  

As a medical student in the early 1960s, I remember a center city OBGYN doctor associated with the med school teaching program known for seeing an average of 130 patients a day in his office.

That was difficult for me at the time to comprehend. It’s obvious now that he had hired several high powered OBG nurses to see most of his patients every day. Needless to say, he was quite wealthy.

His being 50 or so years ahead of his time, was remarkable. It was long before the time of medical office certified nurse midwife employees, before nurse practitioners, and before medical practice required private practice doctors to hire such special employees for financial survival.  

If your intent is to create a medical practice primarily composed of well educated, medically informed, and well paying patients, you must focus your referral marketing efforts on the referral doctors who treat those patients and that send that kind of patient to you.  

Those well established doctors who treat affluent patients require a higher level of your referral marketing to get their attention and to refer their patients to you.

That’s why it’s so important to begin your medical practice in a location where this is possible and where your mix with that society is possible from the start. This may not fit your ideas about the kind of practice you want, but it is the fastest way to wealth in the profession if that is important to you.  

You can become wealthy in any medical practice setup if you know how to go about it. It’s a skill you will never be taught in your medical education. You learn that from life experiences, your friends and mentors, and from your own intellect and intuition.

If we all knew the secrets, we’d all be rich. If that was the only goal of medical practice, we’d all be free of frustrations. Most doctors seek fulfillment in helping patients fight disease, trauma, and disability. Fulfillment is something wealth doesn’t provide.

However, creating a high practice income by marketing your practice does not exclude fulfillment at the same time.  

I believe that high medical practice income, when you earn it, is deserved and provides more intensity of fulfillment. That’s because you are then able to afford to learn new medical skills and knowledge. You become a better doctor in the long run.

You are able to serve your patients at a higher level of expertise, and draw more referral patients because of it. If that’s not true, then I will have much to regret.

Patient referrals obtained through referral marketing efforts, some of which are described above, should be one of your primary marketing and practice building objectives in your medical career.

The author, Curt Graham, M.D., an experienced physician, author, marketer and expert in medical practice business and marketing strategies, is an expert author and motivator for professionals in the business world. He is a platinum expert author with and has been published in Modern Physician and elsewhere.
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photo Dan kenney riding on a bull

The Renegade Millionaire Way

by Dan S. Kennedy


Just the other day, I was listening to a recording of a speech by Joe Sugarman* and Joe said, “One good path to success is to learn all the proven rules and meticulously follow them.  Another path is to occasionally break all the rules, because breakthroughs come only from breaking rules.”  Resonates with me; as you know, I wrote a whole book based on breaking rules.  On one hand, I’m cautious about innovation; pioneers usually come home full of arrows; it’s often costly and time consuming... and I am always much more interested in “what works” than a new idea.  

However, as Joe said, OCCASIONALLY, or I might say, at carefully chosen time, you have no alternative but to be the pioneer in order to move forward and in order to stand out from the crowd. It is, of course, the minority of times that you successfully innovate that you get noticed for, not the majority of times you successfully follow an already plowed path.

  (*In case you don’t know, Joe Sugarman is a mail-order pioneer:  first to sell electronic calculators via direct-response ads, first to use 800#’s.  You may know him via his infomercials or QVC appearances for Blu-Blockers.  But his JS&A ads and catalogs preceded The Sharper Image and led
in selling various electronic gadgets.)

I think the best times to innovate are when you are absolutely convinced that the conventional wisdom; the already plowed path; the crowd is wrong.  

Just as an example, when I was getting started in the speaking business, everybody seemed to operate under the policy of billing clients for fees and expenses after their engagements (anything else was viewed as impolite and unprofessional), and most speakers who sold product from the platform sort of begged the clients for permission, and often sacrificed
that opportunity.  

Very early on, I determined that being in the banking and collections business did not serve my purposes very well at all – nor did speaking only for wages.  So I insisted on a 50% fee deposit to take a date off the calendar, balance and travel expenses paid on site at the speech, and I refused dates where I could not also offer my materials.  

At the time, peers criticized me; told companies would never accept such terms; and called ‘unethical’ by agents and bureaus. Today, my payment policies are the norm in the profession.  

Another example:  At a time when every vendor in a particular niche was offering only very expensive services requiring long-term contracts, I copied their marketing method but used it to sell a substitute product at a very small price (and quickly took in a couple million dollars) – I was convinced they were idiotically leaving a lot of motivated but unsatisfied customers behind by not offering a low price option.    

An interesting survey of selected, successful, profitable large corporations turned up 74% that said they’d achieve their first big success with either a unique product or a distinctive way of doing business, although this breakthrough may not have come along until they had been in business for many years.  

Note the word:  first.  I also know many companies that are able to subsequently build on that first breakthrough more conservatively, to grow and stabilize their businesses.   

The bottom-line, I guess, is that you gotta gamble. You try to gamble only when you must OR when circumstances look so favorable that it is irresistible, but you got to gamble.

DAN S. KENNEDY is a serial, multi-millionaire entrepreneur; highly paid and sought after marketing and business strategist; advisor to countless first-generation, from-scratch multi-millionaire and 7-figure income entrepreneurs and professionals; and, in his personal practice, one of the very highest paid direct-response copywriters in America. As a speaker, he has delivered over 2,000 compensated presentations, appearing repeatedly on programs with the likes of Donald Trump, Gene Simmons (KISS), Debbi Fields (Mrs. Fields Cookies), and many other celebrity-entrepreneurs, for former U.S. Presidents and other world leaders, and other leading business speakers like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and Tom Hopkins, often addressing audiences of 1,000 to 10,000 and up.  His popular books have been favorably recognized by Forbes, Business Week, Inc. and Entrepreneur Magazine. His NO B.S. MARKETING LETTER, one of the business newsletters published for Members of Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle, is the largest paid subscription newsletter in its genre
 in the world



masonic emblem bright colored American flag  Curt Graham, M.D.
   2404 Mason Ave.  Las Vegas, NV 89102
    E-mail = cgmdrx(at)
         © 2004 - 2015  Curtis Graham, M.D.,  All Rights Reserved.